Netto returned to the UK in November last year and their very first store opened in Moor Allerton, Leeds to a flurry of media attention. I was there in opening week to see what all the fuss was about. You would have been mistaken for thinking the core demographic was a 40 year old business professional until I realised it was packed full of spies from the Big 4 grocers!
Such was the interest in this Danish export.
It marked a welcome return of the discount grocer to the UK after it had previously sold up to ASDA in 2010. On first impressions I had high hopes. Fresh flowers and veg displayed prominently front of store. An in-store bakery counter. A wide choice of frozen essentials. Fresh British meat. Obscure dried meats. Some decent wines. Great spot deals like Lego and batteries. And above all great prices.
Who could argue with a 1kg pork shoulder joint at £2.49? Pineapples 50p. Chicken Kievs for 99p.
In understated Scandinavian style, they summed things up as ‘Nice things in a nice shop at a nice price’.
But 3 months on I’m a little worried. Yes it is still early days, but the Netto car park is now quiet whilst the mega-sized Sainsbury’s next door is packed. The shelves and freezers are beginning to look empty and they are out of stock on key lines. The spot deals just aren’t as good. And above all, there are very few actual shoppers in there.
I have never counted more than 20 shoppers in the store on the half a dozen visits I’ve subsequently made. There is rarely a queue at the solitary checkout that is open. That doesn’t look sustainable to me on a retail model that demands high traffic, high volume, low margin sales.
It is certainly not the same experience at discounters like Aldi or Lidl, where we hunt for bargains and footfall and weekly spend continue to rise.
So check out Netto quick. Unless they can engage the local community and boost store traffic, they might become a ‘Notto’ soon.